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Corona, Newbury Park reach Southern Section Division 1 title game

Corona advances with a 2-1 semifinal win over Valencia West Ranch and Newbury Park moves on by beating Santa Ana Mater Dei, 5-3, to set up a battle of Panthers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

May 29, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

The improbable playoff run for the Corona High baseball team has led to a trip to Dodger Stadium to play in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game.

The Panthers (19-14), who began the playoffs as the fifth-place team from the Big VIII League and a lowly wild-card team, won their semifinal game against Valencia West Ranch, 2-1, on Tuesday at Blair Field in Long Beach.

Senior right-hander Daniel Pena gave up six hits, struck out four and walked one. In five playoff games, Pena has been the winning pitcher in three games and has saved two.

"He deserves a lot of credit," Coach Andy Wise said. "He's a big-hearted kid."

Corona ended a 1-1 deadlock in the fifth inning when Wise called for a hit-and-run play. John Gonzalez, a freshman who had two hits, took off from first base. Matt Majher, batting .188, lined a double down the left-field line, and Gonzalez scored.

Cody Bennett pitched well for West Ranch (21-9-1), giving up five hits. But the Panthers, like Dana Hills two years ago, have gotten hot to make it to the final from the wild-card bracket.

"It's incredible," Pena said.

Corona's opponent in Friday's 7:30 p.m. final will be another unseeded team, Newbury Park (20-7), which defeated No. 2-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei, 5-3.

Newbury Park scored five runs in the first inning with the aid of two errors, three walks and three hits. Daniel Barnett had a squeeze bunt, Luke Eubank had a run-scoring single and sophomore Zander Clarke had a two-run double for a 5-2 lead.

It was Clarke's first playoff at-bat.

"You go up there and all you try to do is the best you can," Clarke said. "Getting a hit felt awesome."

Matt Haskins fulfilled his assignment, throwing five innings for the Panthers before turning the ball over to ace Eubank (10-0).

Eubank threw a hitless sixth. In the seventh, Mater Dei put two runners aboard before Eubank ended the game with a strikeout on a 3-and-2 pitch to Ryan Barr.

Now he will get the chance to pitch at Dodger Stadium for a Division 1 title.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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